Friday, March 6, 2015

monterey & the aquarium

we ended our carmel getaway in the 
neighboring town of monterey . . . it's such
a fun place with the wharf, shops, beaches,
& of course the famous monterey bay 
aquarium! it's a fun town that contrasts with
quiet carmel, so it's fun that they're close by.

we had sunny, beautiful weather so we strolled cannery row
 for a while, popping into shops and stopping for treats.

we headed down to the wharf for lunch and walked along 
the docks reading boat names .. my favorite harbor activity :)
when in monterey . . . you get the classic 
clam chowder in a bread bowl. hits the spot!
we strolled the wharf and then headed to ::
one of the most famous aquariums on earth!

why is this such a great aquarium, you ask?
it is set in an amazing location with some of the best
marine life naturally there. the exhibits are done in a 
very natural way, where you feel like you are in the ocean!
it is huge, with so much to see and so many experts and
presentations with things to learn. it's very well done.
the jellyfish exhibit >>> AMAZING. i had to pry myself
away from the windows finally! they display them so well.
talk about a school of fish! ^^
this exhibit shows the beauty of the ocean ..
the natural colors, fish, plants, and water with 
sunlight streaming through was jaw-dropping. 

chase led me all around this place so excited to learn
everything. i love that about him, he is interested in so
many things and makes visits like this fun.

the penguins!! one of the cutest animals to watch!
we also LOVED seeing the sea otters get fed. cutest thing.

this is taken out the window of the aquarium --
it is a pretty incredible location, i'd say! 
the octopus was moving all over the place . . .
what a strange, amazing, cool animal.

see more from carmel: 
carmeland our lovely hotel by the beach.

as you can see by dusty's face, we clearly had
a good time in monterey :) we love this area!


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

refuge spa & the 17-mile drive

 while in carmel last weekend, we promised
 ourselves to slow down and relax. . . and
we succeeded! between wandering in
town & enjoying the beach + our hotel,
we had a great set up. but when we woke
up saturday to a pretty rainstorm, we knew
just where to head :: refuge day spa.
we started off a cozy rainy morning with
breakfast at our hotel before heading straight
to refuge spa. it is in carmel valley and it's
absolutely gorgeous and lovely. it's 
everything a spa should be: secluded,
welcoming, warm, and incredibly nice.
we opted to do the refuge thermal cycle, which gets you
into the spa for only $44. this price includes full use of
all spa facilities all day, and it's not just your regular spa.
you are in the middle of the most beautiful nature, and the
thermal cycle is so worth it. basically we got the fluffiest
robes, changed, entered the refuge (no talking! :) and
began the cycle. you can see the steps listed above on
the water bottle, but we loved this process of heating up
in the steam room // sauna, cooling down in the ice cold
plunge pools, (set to the temperature of the atlantic & pacific
oceans...) and then going to the zero gravity chairs to relax
& enjoy the grounds before doing the cycle a few more times.
it was cleansing, relaxing, and we left feeling amazing!
while we were in the spa for a few hours, the rain
subsided and gave way to beautiful blue skies.
we had no choice but to do the famous 17-mile drive
 -- one of the most enjoyable experiences on earth.
the views and scenery along here are well worth
the $10 to get into the 17-mile drive ^^
we had many stops along the drive, as it should be!
on our many stops, the boys went exploring
every time. they always keep things lively!

after the most perfect drive we ended in the tiny town
of pacific grove and explored lover's point at sunset.
^^ always love adventures with this crew!
we got caught in the rain at the end of our exploring,
so we ducked in the car and made our way to
tarpy's road house for a fun (and warm) dinner
by the fireplaces and gorgeous setting on the
grounds. between the tenderloin special, wedge
salad, and halibut dish we left happy and satisfied.
this restaurant is in monterey, so it was a perfect 
location to be able to eat after our driving! 

what a beautiful, relaxing day in one of the best areas on
 earth. between the rejuvenation of the spa and the
unreal natural beauty on the drive, 
this day was good for the soul. 

also see :: our time in town, our carmel hotel,
and exploring the monterey bay aquarium.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

the best hotel in carmel :: la playa

you know you picked a good hotel when you spend a
majority of your trip there! in some cities we basically
just need a hotel for a good night's rest and shower
 because we are go - go - go out and about all day
long, but in a town like carmel-by-the-sea you want
to choose a hotel with much more to offer.

carmel is a slow-paced, relaxed town and la playa is 
the absolute ideal place to stay here. i mean it! we stay
in a lot of great hotels, but this was one of my favorites
so i'm really excited to share it and recommend it fully.
it is a hidden gem hotel that feels like home.

here are a few reasons why we loved it & will return..
  • it is perfectly situated right near downtown carmel with flawless views of the ocean and just steps from the beach
  • it masters the balance of charm and luxury perfectly
  • each night they have warm homemade chocolate chip cookies and cold milk in the lobby ... need i say more?
  • the breakfast is incredible and complimentary...we're talking fluffy waffles made to order, omelettes, fresh berries, cheese plates, warm croissants, steel cut oats, basically a dream breakfast.. and you get to sit out on the gorgeous deck looking over the ocean as you eat. bonus points!
  • the grounds are so enjoyable to stroll, relax, sit by the bonfire, or play games in the lounge area. it's a homey feeling place that you want to hang around and relax in. 
the rooms are simple and lovely, and a view of the ocean
never hurt anybody . . . there is nothing like falling asleep
to the sound of waves, & waking up to a view of the coast.
another perk of waking up at this hotel is the top-notch
breakfast that is included in your stay. let's just say i
was in heaven on the sunny patio with the yummiest
breakfast and best company. it was one of my favorite
settings i've ever had breakfast in on a vacation.
here's the pretty balcony where you can 
enjoy breakfast overlooking the ocean ^^ 
after a lovely breakfast, we'd walk along the main 
beach every morning. it is a breathtaking beach.
this white sand beach really does take your breath away. 
i think it's so stunning here because of the landscape that 
is so unique to this area with the cyprus trees + pretty skies.

^^ those cypress trees, always setting the best scene!

and the best part --- the DOGS. not many beaches
allow dogs, but this does and that makes it one of
the happiest and best beaches i've ever been to.
as you stroll the beach you just see the happiest,
sweetest dogs loving life on the beach in their element!

how cute is this photo? loved these goldens!

haha -- i took so many pictures of the cute dogs . . . i 
think i need to make a book of "dogs on the beach."
we could have watched them play + run + dig forever!

we also loved watching the surfers. carmel has a constant
supply of perfect waves, and it's so fun to watch people
surf. we got a major treat our last morning when there
was a school of dolphins playing and swimming right
in the waves close to shore! if you look closely at the
picture above, you can see dolphins in the waves
on the right just by the surfer. it was amazing!! 
we had gorgeous weather, but at night it really gets
chilly in carmel. this is when i loved our hotel the most, 
because we'd come in to this lovely fire from the rain...

they'd have warm homemade chocolate chip cookies 
and cold milk in the lobby and our room...

and we'd play this new favorite game for HOURS in their
lounge area. so many friendly people & such a great place.

we were so sad to check out of la playa!
the only reason it was okay is that i fully
plan to come back and stay here again.
we love this town and hotel! 
{see more from exploring carmel well as the 
17-mile drive, spa time, and some fun in monterey!}

goodbye, la playa!
goodbye carmel!


*this post is in partnership with la playa hotel, carmel.*
all opinions are my own!